For the past six years, Godstopper has been making waves in Toronto, Ontario’s noise/doom/sludge scene, continually pushing the boundaries of their sound with each new release. Their latest EP is no exception. Titled Who Tries Anymore, the stunning new EP delves further into pop-infused noise rock territory, highlighting catchy hooks and combing melodic harmonies with heavy rhythms. In a recent interview with Svbterranean, mastermind/vocalist/guitarist Mike Simpson discusses the new release, working solo, and the band’s evolving sound (just don’t call it “metal”). He also talks about his various influences and lyrical inspirations, as well as his hip-hop project Jack Moves, and more.
Godstopper has been a staple in Toronto’s noise/doom/sludge scene for a while now. What’s the story behind the band’s inception?
Godstopper began as a personal project. I had played bass and sang in heavy bands before, but about six years ago I started to write material on my own, away from those bands. I recorded Godstopper’s first demo, Empty Crawlspace, by myself, after I’d learned to play drums well enough to get the songs recorded to my liking. Not too long after that I recruited friends of mine to play with me.
How are you feeling about how the new EP, Who Tries Anymore, turned out?
I still like listening to the songs after 1,000 or so times, so that’s a good sign. I’m really happy that Godstopper’s music has kept pace with changes in my own life, outlook and tastes. I can still justify using it as an outlet, even as the formula has changed to whatever degree over time. The whole process of writing these songs was not forced, and therefore I still really stand by the work. I think it’s a great progression.
This EP highlights catchy hooks and melodies much more than Godstopper’s previous material. Did you go into the writing process with this musical direction in mind?
I’ve always gone into it with that in mind; it’s just become more sharpened over time. No matter how many instruments I write with or perform with, singing is still my favorite. Over the past few years I’ve made a conscious effort to move away from more abrasive vocals (AKA screaming) in favor of seeing what’s possible on the melodic side of things. By applying that focus, I’ve developed a more detailed method of shaping melodies in a way that keeps me, and hopefully the audience, engaged. I do write with the audience in mind, to at least some degree.
You’ve written and recorded most of Godstopper’s releases yourself. Was that also the case for this EP? Do you just prefer working on your own?
Yes. And yes, I think I do. It could even work against me from time to time, because others’ views are valuable, but I rarely feel that what I’m writing is lacking in something that I need to get from an outside source. My process is also very drawn out and bordering on obsession (i.e., listening to a demo or one of its parts many, many times). I don’t really feel comfortable bringing others into such an idiosyncratic process. Also, the jamming-on-the-spot method that bands often employ just doesn’t bring up well-enough developed ideas on my part. We’d be sitting in the jam room for the better part of a day before I got something up to par, if we did it that way. Also, regarding your question, the only Godstopper releases I’ve recorded myself are the first demo, and “Everybody Writes Good Songs.” Everything else was recorded by Collin Young at BTown Sound.
You’ve said you don’t like to call Godstopper a “metal” band. How do you describe the sound? How has it progressed since you first started the band?
I hate describing the sound. I think most people in bands do, but it’s a necessary evil. I even favor the possibly dated term “heavy metal” over just “metal.” I love classic metal and if people think Judas Priest when I say that, I prefer that connotation to one I associate with energy drinks, beer, partying, fashion codes, and a focus on aggression. That is what that single word “metal” conjures up for me, and I feel it does the same for people who operate within more mainstream culture and are less familiar with the finer points of subcultures. Now, having said all that, I probably most often say “we’re a heavy band” and then I reluctantly list some bands we’ve been compared to; The Melvins are probably the most common one we get, and though I like them I’ve never been that heavily into them. I’ve pretty much stuck to that description through the years. As time goes on I’ve tried to stress the “melodic” aspect to people, because that is something I try to put a lot of in our music, and I think it differentiates us from many of our peers.
What are your influences?
I’m just gonna list who comes to mind right now: Soundgarden, Torche, Big Business, Celtic Frost, Black Sabbath, YOB, Pantera. Local acts, past and present, like Vilipend, The Love and Terror Cult/Hammerhands, Ayahuasca. Old alternative and Canadian rock bands like The Gandharvas, The Inbreds, Big Sugar. Also, The Smashing Pumpkins, Eyehategod, Burning Witch, Solitude Aeternus and Candlemass, Today is the Day, Ehnahre. Musicals, especially Les Miserables). Hip-hop is in there somewhere; I feel like Mr. Pretentious listing Jay-Z and Kendrick, but I definitely pay more attention to how lyrics rhyme because of them, as well as many, many other MCs. More recently, I could put classical music in there; the popular guys: Beethoven, Tchaikovsky.
Lyrically, what is Who Tries Anymore about? What inspires the lyrics?
I typically take a lot of time with melodies, but then the lyrics come quickly. A song’s lyrical topic can change from part to part for me. I’ve always favored the Nirvana (by way of The Melvins) method of free association; however I’d say I work toward bringing the lyrics to a definite point. I’m trying to improve my ability to paint a picture or a scene with words, which is something that Tom Waits, Mike from Eyehategod and Drake do to an enviable degree, in my opinion. As for the subject matter on the latest record, it’s a mishmash of male-female relationship stuff (always fertile ground for me), laments and nostalgia for a past that’s been irrationally enshrined in my mind as somehow better than the reality I’m currently in. Also, acknowledgment of ageing and mortality, observations of others’ posturing and unwillingness to confront truth, and how utterly fantastic I think dreams are. Is that good?
You also have a hip-hop project, Jack Moves. Can you describe what that’s like and how it compares to Godstopper as a creative outlet?
Jack Moves is honestly my favorite thing to do right now. Writing for Godstopper is great and I look forward to doing it in the future, but Jack Moves has an immediacy to it that I love. It is me by myself, and it can move at whatever pace I choose, which, as I’ve discovered since I started doing it, is very quickly, and constantly. I spend more time making and performing music now, both through Jack Moves and just in general, than I ever have before in my life, and I have that project to thank for making me aware of that potential within me, and seeing how I can reach an audience. The material is more accessible. The challenge right now is seeing how I can make that project “speak in my own voice,” in the way that Godstopper currently does. I’m still learning the language. It’s also influenced how I treat vocal harmonies on the new Godstopper record; I’m way more into layering harmonies than I ever used to be.
What’s coming up next?
We will do a release show on September 16 at Coalition in Toronto, with Hammerhands (also releasing their new album) and Foreigns. We have two other new releases coming out in the near future, likely before the end of the year: a split with GRIZZLOR through Corpse Flower Records, and a split with The Great Sabatini through No List Records. No touring plans; doing that shit DIY is honestly just too expensive and time-consuming for us. We’ll play shows as they come though.
Thanks for the interview! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Hope everybody likes the new stuff. And if any labels are interested in releasing future material of ours, I’ve got new stuff. Feel free to get in touch: email@example.com.
Godstopper’s Who Tries Anymore is being released on 12” vinyl and digitally via Hex Records, who are also simultaneously releasing the band’s previously digital-only full length Lie Down on CD. Pre-orders for both are available here.